Life After a Conviction: Collateral Consequences After Being Released

Ex-convicts who have been arrested and sentenced in Utah may face what are known as collateral consequences after being released back into the community; making life after a conviction miserable for those attempting to rebuild their lives.

Criminal penalties and time served

Photo by: Blogtrepeneur

Every crime that is committed is countered with legal ramifications that range from probation and community service to a hefty fine and predetermined stint behind bars. Criminal penalties are a direct consequence of a conviction and can vary depending on what law has been broken and whether or not there are multiple charges or subsequent offenses. Once a defendant is sentenced for their wrong-doing, they then carry out their sentence as a sort of legal penance for their misconducts.

Almost free – AP&P

Often when someone has been sentenced or following a period of incarceration, they are sometimes released early on what is known as either probation or parole; both of which grant a convicted person restricted freedom. There are special conditions attached to being on probation and parole that a convicted individual must follow in order to retain their pseudo independence and work towards their complete release. According to the Utah Department of Corrections, the conditions of probation and parole may include:

• Abstaining from controlled substances and submitting drug tests when requested;
• Refrain from owning any dangerous weapons;
• Not associate with those who are involved with criminal activity;
• Obeying curfew that is set by the AP&P officer; and
• Allowing AP&P officers to visit the offender’s home or work to ensure they are abiding by the rules associated with probation or parole.

Parole conditions also include:

• Living only at an approved residence;
• Obtaining permission before leaving the state;
• Maintaining regular full time employment; and
• Allowing random searches of their person or belongings.

AP&P officers enforce these strict rules and expect regular reporting by offenders until their time on probation and parole are finished.

Life on the outside

Photo by: Hartwig HKD

After completing a stint behind bars or following a successful period on probation or parole, a person who has been legally convicted of a crime is then released back into the community and expected to try and live a normal life. Returning to the free world after a lengthy period of time can be a difficult experience for ex-convicts however. They are often returning to lost jobs and/or homes as well as broken families and public shame. If this isn’t enough, ex-convicts also face what is known as collateral consequences of their conviction that make life after release even more unbearable.

Collateral consequences – civil punishment after release

According to the National Institute of Justice, “Criminal conviction brings with it a host of sanctions and disqualifications that can place an unanticipated burden on individuals trying to re-enter society and lead lives as productive citizens.” These unfamiliar burdens post-conviction are known as collateral consequences. Collateral consequences are civil penalties carried out by the state that are not always mentioned in court. NIJ also stated that collateral consequences “attach not only to felonies and incarcerated individuals but also to misdemeanors and individuals who have never been incarcerated.” Some collateral consequences are well known such as convicted felons not being able to possess firearms or serve on a jury. Others are unexpected and not reserved only for felons.

The harsh reality post-conviction

Photo by: Kathryn Decker

The Utah Sentencing Commission released a document in 2014 that lists 15 difference areas of life that will be affected by having a criminal record. They also listed the the amount of collateral consequences for each area:

Area and number of collateral consequences

• “Employment                                                     435
• Occupational and professional licensing  273
• Business licensing and property rights     234
• Government programs                                     14
• Government loans and grants                         3
• Judicial rights                                                      21
• Government benefits                                         7
• Education                                                             18
• Political/civic participation                            68
• Housing                                                                22
• Family/domestic rights                                   35
• Recreational license/firearms                       20
• Registration and residency restrictions     63
• Motor vehicle licensure                                   41
• General relief provision                                  20
Total                                                                   1,274

Every one of these areas that are critical to living a normal life is affected when a person is a convicted felon. Surprisingly, 12 out of 15 listed areas have collateral consequences for those who have simple misdemeanor conviction on their record.

Legal counsel

It is vital for anyone facing criminal charges to know the ramifications that any charge can carry, whether those implications are criminal penalties or collateral consequences. Before pleading guilty or accepting a plea bargain, discuss all possible criminal and collateral consequences first with an experienced a criminal defense attorney

Do Sex Crimes Receive Too Harsh of Punishments in Utah?

Utah is known for being too tough on many crimes such as drugs, yet few question whether or not other offenses such as sex crimes are receiving harsh punishments as well.

Leniency for some, not for others

Photo by: eflon

Photo by: eflon

Utah is making strides to reduce the penalties for offenses such as drug possession, yet those arrested for sex crimes can usually expect to receive exceptionally harsh punishments with no public outcry for leniency. Sex offenders receive no mercy in court, and everyone seems happy to lock them up and throw away the key. Although sex crimes are very serious charges and should carry punishments, there are some things to consider before locking offenders away for life.

Prison population

One of the reasons House Bill 348 was signed was to help decrease the prison population by reducing the number of drug offenders taking up room. While those arrested for drug crimes have faced unfair punishments, the prison population won’t necessarily decrease with the drug offenders gone. Instead the prisons will be filled to capacity with those serving lengthy sentences for murder or sex crimes. According to the Utah Department of Corrections (UDC), “Nearly one-third of the inmates in Utah’s prison system are serving time for a sexual offense.” This number of sex offenders in prison has been increasing and will continue to do so until the prisons are at full capacity; then what?

Mandatory prison sentences for sex crimes

Photo by: Chris Potter

Photo by: Chris Potter

While everyone else is getting out early or having reduced sentences to start, those in prison for sex crimes will be there for an extended length of time. A person with no previous criminal record that is convicted of a sex crime will spend anywhere from 5 years to life in prison. Utah Code 76-3-406 adds regarding those charged with sex crimes ranging from aggravated sexual assault to rape, “probation shall not be granted, the execution or imposition of sentence shall not be suspended, the court shall not enter a judgment for a lower category of offense, and hospitalization shall not be ordered, the effect of which would in any way shorten the prison sentence for any person who commits a capital felony or a first degree felony [of various sex crimes]”. In other words, they can go to prison and stay there.

Lack of treatment programs

While many sex offenders wait out their lengthy prison sentences, most will not be able to partake in the much needed Sex Offender Treatment Program to help them “control urges and impulses” as the UDC aims to do to help rehabilitate them. While the State of Utah will dish out millions to house inmates imprisoned for sex crimes, they are not increasing funding for the sex offender programs that will help treat these inmates by giving them the therapeutic and behavioral support they need. In fact:

• According to a briefing by the Utah State Legislature in 2011, “the last new funding for prison sex offender treatment programming was in 1996” twenty years ago!

• At that time of that briefing, the Utah State legislature stated “the department of corrections [was] funded for approximately 250 sex offender treatment slots” but had nearly 2,000 offenders who were incarcerated for sex crimes. The number of sex offenders has increased in five years, with treatment remaining stagnant.

• While not outwardly stating so, sex offender treatment may in fact be decreasing or as UDC called “a demand coupled with a lack of resources”. In October of 2015, the Special Services Dormitory which housed inmates who were “awaiting or undergoing sex offender treatment” was closed because of staffing issues. The inmates were then absorbed back into the general inmate population with a lower chance of receiving treatment.

The one-third of Utah’s prison population that consists of those convicted of sex crimes are not getting the help they need to be rehabilitated when their far distant release date nears. They are practically set up to fail.

Low recidivism rate

Arrested for Sex Crimes

Photo by: Office of Public Affairs

Even with the odds against them, those mostly first time offenders convicted of sex crimes have a surprisingly low recidivism rate. The Sex Offender Treatment Report 2010 stated that 43% of sex offender parolees returned to jail within a year. 87% of those returning to jail did so because of “technical violations of the conditions of parole, not new criminal behavior.” Only 12.3% returned for committing another crime. While the recidivism rate for sex offenders is already low, graduation from a treatment program dropped that recidivism rate even lower. Those that graduation from a Sex Offender Treatment Program only had a recidivism rate of 19.5%; 26% lower than those who didn’t complete treatment. The majority of those returning were also rearrested for simple technical violations of their parole.

Treatment and parole most effective

While many Utah residents wish to see those convicted of sex crimes spend a lifetime in jail, there are other options such as treatment and parole that are proven to be more effective. By reducing penalties and sentencing while in turn increasing funding for the Sex Offender Treatment Program, taxpayers will end up saving millions in the long run and Utah prisons will not become overrun by those serving life sentences for first time sex crimes.

Law Enforcement Use of GPS Tracking Devices

Law enforcement officers have different measures to obtain information about a potential suspect including the use of “slap-on” GPS tracking devices attached to vehicles. Without a warrant however, this practice may constitute a violation of the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights regarding unreasonable searches.

GPS tracking devices

Photo by: Surrey County Council News

Photo by: Surrey County Council News

The “slap-on” GPS tracking devices are mechanisms that can be placed inconspicuously on the undercarriage of a vehicle allowing police the ability to track the movement and location of said vehicle. These tracking tools allow law enforcement to keep tabs on potential suspects over an extended period of time and can be used to learn the whereabouts of illegal activity.

Protection from unreasonable searches

For several years, “slap-on” GPS tracking devices were under debate, with many claiming they violated a person’s Fourth Amendment rights regarding unreasonable searches. The Fourth Amendment states “The right of the people to be secure ( . . . ) against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause ( . . . ). In October of 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals agreed that GPS tracking devices constituted a “search” and law enforcement must obtain a warrant based on probable cause before placing such devices on a vehicle.

Ankle monitors

Photo by: Washington State House Republican

Photo by: Washington State House Republican

While tracking devices on vehicles were deemed unconstitutional without a warrant, the question was raised whether or not SBM monitors, commonly referred to as ankle monitors should fall under the same scrutiny (Grady v. North Carolina). Each state has their own specific uses for electronic tracking in the form of ankle monitors. Some states use these devices to forever track the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders after they have finished their sentencing. Other states such as Utah permit law enforcement to use ankle monitors on individuals placed on probation. (Utah Code 77-18-1.16)

Grey area

As law enforcement’s use of electronic searches is being evaluated, it is wise to consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to ensure that your rights are not being violated by the use of tracking devices or other means of technological trespass.